When storing garlic at home there are several considerations you should take into account, but the most important one is "What state is the garlic currently in".
How we store our garlic is going to depend on what state of preparation it is in. Whether you've got whole garlic heads, separated but unpeeled cloves, peeled cloves, or minced garlic, you're going to want to adjust your storage methods accordingly.
If you want to get the best possible shelf life out of your garlic you're going to want to keep it whole. Whole garlic heads will last for up to 6 months if kept correctly. As you begin to prepare garlic into different forms, peeled, minced, etc, the shelf life begins to diminish quickly.
How to store fresh garlic heads.
The best way to store whole heads of garlic at home is to leave the head as intact as possible and keep it in a cool dark place like a cabinet or drawer. Whenever you want to prepare some garlic for a dish or recipe, pull a few cloves off of the head and go to work.
When storing whole garlic here are the two most important things to consider.
1. Light and Temperature
While some garlic needs to be kept refrigerated, you should always store whole garlic at room temperature in a dark space like a drawer or kitchen cupboard. Light and low temperatures can lead to mold, which will spoil your garlic and waste valuable ingredients. Plus it means you might not have enough garlic on hand when you need it, which is a much bigger worry in my book.
Keep your whole garlic heads in a room temperature, dark space like a cabinet or drawer and it will last for up to 6 months!
2. Air Circulation
When storing whole garlic, you are going to want to choose a place with good air circulation. Stagnant, still air will lead to mold formation, potentially contaminating your delicious garlic stash. Most cabinets or drawers should have consistent enough air circulation for proper storage, but if you are worried you can always keep your garlic on your countertop in a storage container.
Best Containers for Storing Whole Garlic.
If you want to keep the mess down you can store garlic bulbs in a paper bag, this helps wick away any excess moisture and keeps the garlic paper contained without creating a mess. Alternatively, you could use a wire basket on our countertop, this does expose the garlic to light but it will give the garlic great air flow which is a bonus.
If you are looking for a more decorative option, a garlic keeper makes a great addition to any countertop. Garlic keepers are essentially ceramic crocks with ventilation holes in the side to help promote air circulation. If you use a ton of garlic and have some room on your countertop they are an exquisite storage solution.
Storing peeled garlic cloves.
Whether you are storing garlic you've peeled yourself or pre-peeled garlic purchased at the store, the most important thing to remember is to always use an air-tight container and always keep your peeled cloves of garlic in the fridge.
The garlic paper that surrounds the individual cloves does a number of amazing things, it helps keep them dry and free from rot. It also keeps the garlic from oxidizing. Oxygen reacts with peeled cloves and over time it begins to break them down causing off-flavors and aromas.
The moment you peel garlic you are essentially starting a timer on its shelf life. After a week or so in refrigeration, even the freshest, most carefully peeled cloves of garlic will begin to soften, exhibit off-flavors and go bad.
One way to help extend the life of your peeled garlic clove is to be careful during the peeling process not to bruise or smash the cloves. Try to peel a single clove at a time using a sharp paring knife, avoid crushing or smashing the clove to remove the garlic paper.
Once you've peeled the garlic, store it in an airtight container, like a food storage bag, in the fridge. Try not to peel more cloves than you might realistically use in a week to ensure the freshest possible garlic for your recipes.
How to best store peeled and chopped garlic.
In general, storing chopped garlic is never a great idea. Because of the amount of oxygen introduced while it's being processed, chopped garlic has the overall shortest shelf life. It can last for a day or so in the refrigerator, but it will begin to break down and after a few days it starts to smell incredibly pungent and will taste off when used in a recipe.
You can extend the shelf life of chopped garlic by storing it in oil. This helps prevent further oxidation and off-flavors, but it does introduce its own set of concerns. The most important rule when storing garlic in oil is to always store it in the fridge. Though it's not common, once in a blue moon garlic stored in olive oil can develop Clostridium Botulinum bacteria or botulism when not stored properly.
Botulism occurs in low acid foods under low to no oxygen conditions and one of the most common foods it can be found in is garlic oils left at room temperature. As long as you refrigerate any minced garlic stored in oil, and use it within 2-3 days you should be fine. However, given how easy it is to chop garlic it's maybe easier to just use fresh garlic in recipes instead of pre-chopping.
How to store garlic in other forms.
Sometimes you might find yourself in possession of other more unique forms of garlic, here is how to best store some of the more common types.
Storing roasted garlic in oil.
Garlic confit is one of the most delicious and versatile ingredients. To prepare confit or roasted garlic you can either roast whole heads of garlic, coated in olive oil and wrapped in tin foil, or you can peel the garlic cloves and place them in a small baking dish covered in oil in the oven to roast.
Once you've achieved the perfect roasted garlic, transforming the astringent, spicy garlic flavor into a mellow, sweeter, deeper flavor, you are going to want to store it properly. To do so make sure to keep the roasted garlic cloves covered in oil in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for 2-3 days under refrigeration. Make sure not to keep the roasted garlic at room temperature as it can become a breeding ground for botulism.
Storing Garlic Scapes or Green Garlic.
Garlic scapes and green spring garlic are two of the more rare forms of garlic as they have a pretty short season every year during the spring months. These green, garlic vegetables are the product of growing garlic and can offer a ton of awesome garlic flavor to your recipes without having to peel or chop garlic cloves.
Garlic Scapes are the stem/flower of the hard neck garlic plant which is the most common form of garlic cultivated in the United States/Canada. Unlike other plants, garlic is harvested twice, once in the Spring months when the garlic scape/flowers are harvested and then again at the end of the Summer when the bulb is harvested.
Garlic scapes have a green vegetal garlic flavor that is similar to a scallion or a leak but with more garlic punch. They are wonderful in salads or pasta dishes and make a great accompaniment to almost any fish or grilled meat dish.
To store them properly keep them refrigerated and contained as best as possible. These longer vines are sometimes difficult to store, I personally keep garlic scrapes in the crisper drawer, tied with a string in a coil until I need them.
How to store Black Garlic.
Black garlic bulbs were once a rare and hard-to-find ingredient that made Chefs swoon. Famed for its rich caramelized flavor, reminiscent of good balsamic vinegar, Black Garlic was a luxury product and was firmly the domain of fancy restaurants.
Today you can find or make black garlic pretty easily and it brings a ton of depth to your cooking. By aging garlic under special conditions you can create inky black cloves of almost raisinated garlic that is sweet, pungent, and incredibly similar to a balsamic vinegar reduction in flavor.
Whether you've made or purchased the black garlic you're going to want to keep it under refrigeration in an airtight container. Ideally, you would include a desiccant packet, you can find them here if you want to purchase them, they are a great way to keep excess moisture away from ingredients stored in the refrigerator. If you purchased the black garlic you can simply keep it in the container it came in in the refrigerator, it will most likely come with a desiccant packet included in the packaging.
How to extend the shelf life of your garlic.
Is your garlic about to turn or you just happen to have more leftover garlic from a recipe than you anticipated? Use these tricks to keep your garlic fresher longer!
1. Make sure to keep your fresh garlic whole.
A whole garlic bulb has the longest shelf life of all at around 6 months when properly stored. It's really no that much of an imposition to peel and chop garlic as needed, and you'll rarely have to worry about your garlic going bad!
2. Freeze chopped garlic for easy to use, pre-portioned convenience.
Though freezing garlic slightly diminishes the pungent flavor, it can infinitely extend the shelf life of peeled and chopped garlic cloves. Simply spread the chopped garlic on a baking sheet or dish and place it in the freezer. To cut down on prep time you can use a garlic press to help mince the garlic.
Once the garlic has completely frozen transfer it to an airtight freezer container and keep it in the freezer until needed. You can also pack the garlic into ice cube trays to create tiny pre-portioned blocks of garlic goodness. Just make sure not to use the trays for ice making, unless you like garlic-flavored beverages.
3. Make Black Garlic
You can easily create black garlic with a food dehydrator, rice cooker, or instant pot. This delicious, caramelized garlic product will keep for about 1-2 months in the refrigerator if kept under ideal conditions and will keep even longer if you freeze it. If you have garlic that may be about to turn this can be a super easy project and a great way to increase the shelf life of your garlic.
Just a warning the garlic does smell incredibly strongly during the cooking process, and it can take anywhere from 10 days to 30 days depending on how dark and roasted you like your black garlic. I would personally keep this project in a separate room or ideally a garage for the duration of the process to spare you from living in a garlic cloud.
4. Make dried/dehydrated garlic powder.
One great way to extend the life of your garlic and to really step up the flavor of your pantry items is to make your own garlic powder or granulated garlic. You can achieve this easily by dehydrating garlic slices or minced garlic until completely dry and then chopping the dried garlic in a spice grinder or coffee grinder.
Again, as with the black garlic, this is going to smell very strongly of garlic as it dries and will be unpleasant for some. Keep the dehydrator next to an open window, in a separate room, or ideally in an external space like a garage or porch while it is drying the garlic.